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World-class tool offers climate clues

Wairarapa experienced drought-like conditions in 2007. PHOTO/FILE


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Severe weather changes predicted for the region until the end century can now be mapped out by farmers and communities looking to prepare and adjust.

An online-interactive map, launched by the Greater Wellington Regional Council, reveals the projected future of climate change in the region up until 2100.

Regional council senior climate scientist Dr Alex Pezza said the world-class tool was based on “robust science” and he was confident the projected options were accurate.

“We found it interesting that the Wairarapa is so different to the rest of the [Greater Wellington] region in terms of predictions,” Pezza said.

“The Wairarapa looks much drier, and has many more additional hot days predicted, compared to the west coast.”

The map is based on a report, commissioned by the council, and prepared by National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research [NIWA] scientists last year, and predicts severe droughts, heavy rain events, hotter temperatures, and lower river flows for Wairarapa if action is not taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The report predicts the number of hot days — with temperatures 25 degrees Celsius above – could increase from about three weeks to more than three months a year by 2090 if no changes are made.

The potential impacts on primary industries include heat stress on cattle, reduced crop growth, and “sleeper” pests becoming active because of temperature changes.

The report says drought would also impact air quality and public health, including increases in allergies and disease-spreading pests

“An interesting feature is that even the lowest emissions scenario still gives an additional 10 to 15 hot days a year in the Wairarapa,” Pezza said.

Greater Wellington Regional Council senior climate scientist Dr Alex Pezza. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

The biggest concern for Wairarapa is the effect the severe weather events and droughts will have on agriculture and horticulture industries, water supply, and public health.

“The tool should give an opportunity for all community sectors to start planning ahead,” Pezza said.

“Representatives from all the councils in the region have already received the tool. We have also sent the tool to several farmers and stakeholders in the Wairarapa.”

The map offers two timeframes, mid-century, up until 2050, and late-century up until 2100, based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s [IPCC] New Zealand climate model data.

With more 500 layers of data, the tool provides an “on the spot” assessment of climate change for 21 climate variables, including drought potential, soil moisture, and several rainfall, temperature, and wind thresholds.

Pezza said with the unknown future with global emissions, the best strategy was to consider a range of scenarios.

“The regional council is considering all scenarios, including the high emissions path, because we prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

“The idea is not to scare the community, but to empower everybody, including the council itself, to understand what options we have.

“We are all together in this and we are all part of the problem. But we are also all part of the solution and that’s what makes me an optimist.”

The Climate change mapping tool can be viewed at: mapping1.gw.govt.nz/gw/ClimateChange/




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